Kismet Combines Check-Ins, Background Location And More — A SXSW Dark Horse?

Out of the slew of new location apps vying for users at SXSW this weekend, Highlight and Glancee are looking like the standouts. They both have subtle ways of connecting you to friends and new people via your phone, without invading your privacy too much. But there’s a royal rumble of competitors.

And another one of them, Kismet, has just entered the ring with a particularly forward approach to privacy that could help it win the attention melee.

It includes the background location stuff like the others, but lets you check in if you really want to declare the place you’re at. “Walking around San Francisco, I’m unlikely to check in,” chief executive Kevin Stephens explains. “But at SXSW where so many events are right on top of each other, it’s more valuable to show which event or location I actually am in order to meet new people. It’s impractical to leave a bar to go to one next door if the line is 30 minutes long.”

It also lets you do things like set up-one on-one “meetings” and ad hoc group “events” that you create and invite people to within the app. Both could be good for the conference.

Here’s the privacy twist.

The core social graph is built around Facebook like Highlight, Glancee and many of the others. You have to enable Facebook permissions when you first log in, and the app is built around the idea that you’re trying to connect with people you have things in common with.

But unlike most of the competitors, you’ll see the exact places where people are, even if you have no friends in common with them. And by exact I mean sometimes right down to the street addresses.


You’ll only get exact addresses for those other users who actively check in themselves, not people who are just using the background location feature. And, the app has a unique tactic for privacy protection: it watches residential places you go to often and automatically obscures them after a few visits.

The app builds location frequency into the app in other ways. “You’ll actually see a counter of how many times you’ve both been there for places both of you have visited frequently (e.g., we both went to AT&T Park 5 times lately),” Stephens tells me. “This is to show what you have in common with someone. Where you spend your time says more about you than your Facebook likes.”

You can also see other detailed stats about other users, including the number of meeting invitations they’ve sent and the number of chats they’ve had. Stephens intends for this feature to promote good behavior.

“If someone chatted up 80 people and proposed to meet 50 of them in the past day or two,” he says, “that would send off a ‘creeper’ vibe to most women. That’s basically being the guy in the room that walks around and hits on every woman in sight. This feature is specifically to create some social pressure so people avoid anti-social behavior.”

For people who have friends in common, the interface lets you scroll through to see the degrees of separation on Facebook, up to three and four degrees of separation away.

One of my favorite features, and one that’s not available on most competitors’ apps, is a way to see a map of everyone else who has actively checked in. It gives you a new sense for all the activity happening right around you.

Kismet is launching a little late for the buzz building around SXSW this year, but it has a strong team, an interesting product, and some room to experiment. After an incubation period in AngelPad, the company (incorporated as Meh Labs) has raised $1 million in a seed round led by Triple Point Ventures, with participation from New Enterprise Associates and angel investors including Shiva Rajaraman, Steph Hannon and Roham Gharegozlou.

The app is currently only for iPhone, but look for it to expand to the other platform at some point.